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The 6 best universities in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report

Choosing a college is difficult. While there are plenty of resources to help students estimate hard costs, it can be hard to understand which features make one school a better fit than another.

The U.S. News & World Report annual ranking helps make this process a little easier. The publication has long tracked and analyzed data from hundreds of schools, studying metrics such as graduation rate, retention rate and class size. For the first time, the rankings will also consider a school's ability to promote the social mobility of low-income students. The list also features a four-way tie for third place.

Once again, Princeton University topped U.S. News' rankings of the best universities thanks to a perfect 100 out of 100 overall score and an impressive five-to-one student-to-faculty ratio.

Common among these top-ranked institutions are sky-high first-year retention and graduation rates. These figures are often overlooked by prospective students but are incredibly important when considering colleges.

The National Center for Education Statistics reports that just 40 percent of first-time full-time students earn a bachelor's degree in four years, and only 59 percent earn their bachelor's in six years.

Since students often struggle to graduate on-time, they are forced to pay for extra years of college which can quickly increase the cost of their degree.

While not all students will attend one of this year's top-ranked 6 schools, understanding the traits these institutions share can go a long way toward selecting a university that serves them best in the long term.

With these factors in mind, here are the top 6 schools in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report:


Columbia University
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Columbia University

3. Columbia University (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 6,113

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $57,208

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 96 percent

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 4,524

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $49,892

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 94 percent

The University of Chicago
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The University of Chicago

3. University of Chicago (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 5,941

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $54,825

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 93 percent

Yale University campus, New Haven, CT
Craig Warga | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Yale University campus, New Haven, CT

3. Yale University (tie)

Total undergraduate enrollment: 5,472

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $51,400

Average first-year student retention rate: 99 percent

Graduation rate: 97 percent

Harvard University
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Harvard University

2. Harvard University

Total undergraduate enrollment: 6,710

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $48,949

Average first-year student retention rate: 97 percent

Graduation rate: 96 percent

Princeton University 
Photo: Princeton University, Office of Communications.
Princeton University 

1. Princeton University

Total undergraduate enrollment: 5,400

Tuition and fees (2017-2018): $47,140

Average first-year student retention rate: 98 percent

Graduation rate: 97 percent

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